Ah the list. How I admire and envy the folks who are organized enough to always document their shopping lists each week. The same people who diligently stick to their budgets, clip their coupons and their guns, and plan their meals well in advance of preparation. Unlike me who is always in a panic/need of a special spice or a specific grain which I forgot to write down and I guess I could make it next week but oops I bought all the produce for it...you get my dilemma. Same schtick, different week.
Short of intensive shock therapy, I doubt I will ever completely change my ways. But I do have one trick in my grocery bag that keeps me going, a set of standards that I purchase every week no matter what. Of these, my most important are the aromatics: celery, carrots, and onions. They are named for their wonderful scents, which are particularly sweet and mouthwatering when cooked together. When properly stored, they last for a long time. They are incredibly versatile and flexible, and did I mention they are cheap as well as highly nutritious? Every week they automatically go in the cart, boosting my confidence and balancing my budget.
A few notes on purchasing: I do not like the stores to choose for me; it is a little patronizing and tends to yield less than perfect produce. So my advice is to look for the whole vegetable in an unbagged, uncut, and loose state. If you can find things with the leaves on top, even better. Don't get me wrong - I am no purist and sometimes we all need to compromise, especially if you are shopping with two crazy children screaming for gogurt. I am just saying, try this if you can. Don't buy a bag of vegetables; select the ones that look best to you and put them in your own bag. Each week I buy 3 onions, a bunch of carrots, and a bunch of celery.
I also like to mix it up. If they are selling rainbow colored carrots, I am all over it. Sometimes I prefer red onions to yellow, or even scallions or leeks. Vidalia onions are always a treat. And if you can find celeriac, please give me a call because once you peel the damn thing it is delicious.
Once you get them home, cut them up. Peel the carrots, and then cut the tops and bottoms off, slicing the remainder in half. Same with the celery. Put it all in a tea towel or a plastic bag with a paper towel. Add to the crisper. As for the onions, peel and cut them into eights, then add them to a plastic bag with a paper towel and set them next to their carrot/celery brethren. If you don't have time to peel the onions, leave them on the counter and out of the fridge.
And now to cook. Here are three easy things to do with aromatics all week long:
- Fine chop them and add greens, tomatoes, chick peas, flax seed, and dressing.
- Rough chop them and add to 12 cups of boiling water, along with 2 pounds of chicken bones, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to simmer, cook for 1 1/2 hours, and you will have delicious chicken broth. Discard solids. Serve with steamed carrot coins, dill, and egg noodles.
- Mince them and saute in 2 tbsp of olive oil for 10 - 15 minutes, until soft. Add 28 oz of canned, whole tomatoes. Mash tomatoes, add 1 cup of red wine, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup white sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve with pasta.
Enjoy every bite, and please leave me a comment below about your own experiences with aromatics.